In 800 A.D., the capital of Ethiopia was moved from Aksum to the central highlands. From about 1000 A.D., Ethiopia exported gold and ivory to Egypt but remained a largely agriculturally based economy. From about 1150 A.D., the Zagwe kings took control and ruled over the Ethiopian region that was previously ruled by the Akusamite kings. They established the capital at Adefa in the central highlands.
The Zagwe dynasty aggressively expanded the Christian Ethiopian state by replacing traditional rulers with Christian military leaders or by members of the ruling royal family. The district leaders were given large estates and the ability to tax the local people. The role of the governors was to organize military protection, ensure the safety of local traders and provide the King with tax revenue. When the Zagwe kings conquered a people they would set up monasteries and send Christian missionaries. The monasteries became learning centers for Ethiopian Christian culture.
Even though Ethiopia was surrounded by Muslims and pagan styles of worship they maintained their connections to Old Testament teaching. Under Zagwe leadership, Ethiopia reopened the links between the Ethiopian Christian Church and the Holy Land. Prior to this, the Ethiopian church remained connected to the Egyptian Coptic church. By the 13th century, Ethiopians could travel and trade through Egypt freely and even make pilgrimages to Israel through the Nile River.
Between 1200 and 1250 A.D., the church constructed many churches in Adefa. Some historians believe that these churches were an attempt to recreate Jerusalem. In 1270 A.D., the Solomonid dynasty ousted the last Zagwe ruler. The Solomonid dynasty lasted from 1270-1550 A.D.